Monday, March 28, 2016

Brian's Story

Upon leaving the Pow Gai poker table, a dealer at an empty Mississippi Stud table waved me over.  The table was empty and I started to protest that I didn’t know how to play Mississippi Stud when I noticed that the dealer was Brian, the substitute dealer who had dealt a few hands at my Pow Gai table.  Brian is a Eurasian from Vietnam and had been excited to learn that I had visited his home country.

Brian told me not to worry about the game, he wanted to tell me his story.  He was the son of an American serviceman, although he didn’t know his father.  He had an older sister who was the son of an Australian soldier.  I imagined the hard life of his mother just trying to get along in wartime Vietnam.  Brian said he and his sister had been harassed and discriminated against in Vietnam because of his mixed heritage.  One day he heard of an American program to fast-track the immigration of sons and daughters of American servicemen to the US.  He, his sister, and his mother took advantage of it.  He has been in the US for 17 years.  His sister is now married and has two children; his mother is still alive and thriving; he’s happy to have good employment and live free of discrimination.  It was almost like he needed to tell someone his story, and I felt honored that it was me, so now I want to share it here. 

I’m proud to be the citizen of a country that has always opened its doors to immigrants.  Let’s not stop!  I'll take Brian's Story home with me and try harder to listen to the stories of others with sympathy and empathy.  It's better than taking home lots of winnings at the tables.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

We Left It in Las Vegas

Le Boulevard and Casino at Paris Las Vegas
What a funny catch line…What Happens in Las Vegas Stays in Las Vegas.  I think they’re talking about your money.  Las Vegas was fun and accomplished its purpose – we were really glad to get home to Durango.

The travel agent convention was “déjà vu all over again,” but one good thing was a new gambling passion, Pai Gow Poker.  I studied up on it on line; it didn’t look too hard for someone who has played poker.  When I sat down, the young man next to me said, “This is a drinking game, not a gambling game.”  It’s true!  The players (and even the dealer) formed a sociable group, not like the Blackjack table where players brood over each card and scowl at you when you make a move they don’t like.  And not like the Craps table where they scoop up your money before you barely settle in.  At the Pai Gow table, you can show your cards around and get advice on how to play them. Everybody roots for everybody else; the waitress keeps bringing complimentary drinks, and even if you lose a little money, you’ve had a good time.   My $70 got value in entertainment. 

At one point the congenial Indian dealer had to take a bathroom break and she was replaced by a young man with a scowl.  The mood and the cards changed character.  I wonder how that can happen that the cards catch the mood.  I asked the dealer where he was from.  He said Vietnam.  When I told him I had visited Vietnam a couple of years ago, he brightened considerably.  His name was Brian and he had a story…to be continued.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Glitter and Glam

Las Vegas has grown over the years, but its main product is still glitter and glam.  We were invited downtown on Wednesday night to enjoy the Freemont Street experience.  That scene is truly an experience!  On an unusually cold and windy mid-week night, the street was crowded with partyers.  Outdoor bars were busy serving up drinks; the casino signs and the whole “sky” overhead glittered with neon lights.  Three street stages added to the raucous atmosphere.

According to representatives of the Las Vegas Tourist Bureau who addressed our convention, gambling has taken a downturn and Vegas will need to depend more on the whole gambit of entertainment to bring the hordes of people necessary to sustain the economy.  Prices for rooms and food, which used to be almost complimentary, have skyrocketed.  Live entertainment and Broadway-style shows rival New York.  Las Vegas has truly turned itself into a Disneyland for Adults (although kids are also welcome).

One nice touch is the ready availability of scooters for rent.  It gave us a lot more mobility and we enjoyed getting out on the street and being jostled by the crowds.  Viva Las Vegas!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Conventionally Speaking

Hard to Stay Awake
I'm a sucker for brochures. 
Now, how am I going to get them home?

I wonder if it's raining or if the sun is shining.
Going to a convention in Las Vegas is like falling into the middle of a bowling ball.  The hotel and convention center are attached, so no reason to go outdoors; the speakers drone on with amazingly consistent boring content; and the constant jangle of the slots beckons you from the tedium.  This convention makes me feel old -- I’ve been there, done that, and don’t really want to do it again.  Thank goodness for the spa – yoga, Jacuzzi, and steam bath and the world is right again!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Road Trippin'

Lake Mead from Hoover Dam
Every journey is unique and at the same time conforms to a pattern; this one is no exception.  It fits nicely into the categories of “Road Trip” and “Trade Show.” The destination is Las Vegas; the reason for going is a Home Based Travel Agent Forum.  Actually, the reason for going is just to “get the hell out of Dodge” for a little while.  A change does everyone good. 

Hoover Dam
We always start a road journey in the company of Willie Nelson.  His song “On the Road Again” offers the perfect accompaniment.  We just couldn’t wait to get on the road again.  The car was all packed, the mail and paper had been stopped, the house was locked up, and a sense of adventure was in the air.   What better change than road trippin' across the West.  

Bridge Spanning the Colorado River
Great Seal of the United States
Some 435 miles later we decided to spend the night in Kingman, AZ, which appears to be the preferred stop for the hordes of people – truckers, tourists, students, et al - travelling to and from Los Angeles.  Luckily, one room remained in the Knight’s Inn, a drive-in motel that was probably once glorious and now merely a reasonably cheap and, hopefully, clean place to spend the night.  The fact that there was a Denny’s next door tells you something about it.   I, for one, regret the passing of the old motel where you could step from car to room and back again without elevators, luggage carts and air conditioning. 

The next morning we started out on the short trip to Las Vegas, stopping at the Hoover Dam, not for the first time, and admiring Lake Mead, the Art Deco statues, and the new bridge that now spans the chasm across Colorado River.  The vistas as we descended from the plateau into the desert below were breathtaking.  No wonder people come from around the world for these stunning views.